Now that's out of the way. Readers, please welcome author, Claire Ashgrove, who writes as herself and as Tori St. Claire.
|Claire Ashgrove/Tori St. Claire|
Caroline: Readers love to get to know authors. Please tell us about growing up. Share anything that lets readers get to know the real you.
Claire: I grew up an only child in suburbia Missouri and am in rural Missouri now, though at one time I seriously considered a move to Atlanta, Georgia, and my heart is firmly rooted in Ireland. I’ve never been shy a day in my life, unless it comes to making phone calls to people I don’t know. I’d rather go twenty miles to the store and find out if they have something I want than call and ask a stranger. I’m just weird that way I suppose! I’m also a divorced mother of two young boys who keep me running, and we currently reside on a farm, where critters are our daily life. We all love horses and spend our evenings curled up with cats and dogs. Or, more specifically in my dog’s case, wiping off the drool from our Newfoundland, who has no concept of the fact 100+ pounds does not equal a lap dog.
Caroline: Our little Shih Tzu really is a lap dog. But my oldest daughter’s large dogs--an Australian red heeler and one who has a lot of Great Pyranese in her--have trouble with the concept of lap dog, too. Who are your favorite authors and favorite genres?
Claire: My favorite authors… I never can answer this question, and it’s highly likely I have a different response each time.
Karin Tabke and Shayla Black have been the most influential on my career. I admire them and from day one wanted to write with the success they’ve found. I simply love the heat they weave into phenomenal plots.
Steve Berry is also someone I consider a mentor. I’m fascinated with his ability to create speculative fiction, and that fascination led me to write my paranormal romance series, The Curse of the Templars. Book one releases in January – IMMORTAL HOPE.
Caroline: How many books do you read a month? What are you reading now?
Claire: I haven’t read a book through in ages. My deadlines are currently too tight. But I skim-read a lot, and right now I’ve been grabbing up Berkley HEAT books like hotcakes. I’ve found a new fascination with Maya Banks and Anya Bast. Love them lots!
Caroline: When you’re not writing, what’s your favorite way to relax and recharge? Hobbies?
Claire: Sleep. Seriously… I’m almost always writing. When I’m not, I’m miserable, so writing is not only a job to me but a hobby. It could be on my blog, in my newsletter, writing actual novels, or emailing my distant friends – doesn’t matter. I also like to spend time with our critters, but as it’s been unbearably hot this year, I haven’t spent a lot of time outside lately.
Caroline: Describe yourself in three or four words.
Claire: Upbeat, confident, fun-loving and loyal.
Caroline: Would you like to share any guilty pleasures that feed your muse?
Claire: Chocolate. Chocolate. CHOCOLATE. How’s that? Laugh! My muse refuses to work without some sort of chocolate fix.
Caroline: I can identify with that! How long have you been writing?
Claire: I have been writing since I was small, but I made the decision to turn hobby into profession in 2008. Since then I’ve written over twenty titles that are in stages of publication and a handful of others that are waiting in the cue. Three remain beneath my bed to gather dust-bunnies.
Caroline: Where do you prefer to write? Do you need quiet, music, solitude? PC or laptop?
Claire: Depends on the story really. I can write my Templar Series in total chaos, I become so immersed in the story and the characters. My Black Opal series – not so much. It takes a lot more concentration to delve into characters who are borderline criminal, and the minds of the criminals themselves. I have to work on them in virtual silence. The darker, edgier the story, the more quiet I prefer.
Caroline: I need classical music. Are you a plotter or a panzer?
Claire: Plotter 110%. I detail every book in outline form, by chapter, with a paragraph or two on each. I also write with a GANTT chart for the year – perhaps I’m a little anal.
Caroline: Do you use real events or persons in your stories or as an inspiration for stories?
Claire: Persons – never. Events? Usually it’s an event that could have turned out differently, if they make an appearance in my writing. Something I experienced that my mind said, “Oh, if you twisted this and shifted that you’d have an awesome story!”
On the other hand, there’s one exception to this, and that’s my coming release, A BROKEN CHRISTMAS. It was inspired by a true injury one of our military personnel suffered in Iraq. The gentleman is a friend of someone who’s close to me, and he was injured gravely. I shared my friend’s concern and worry, and found myself hoping for his recover as if I knew him personally.
When word reached us that the gentleman’s leg would be saved, but it would take several major surgeries to do so, Kyle, from A BROKEN CHRISTMAS came into my head.
I’m not entirely certain what triggered Kyle. But I requested permission to use the injured gentleman as inspiration, gained it, and we were off and running. I like to think that this soldier’s recovery at home went/goes as well as Kyle’s. That he has someone as devoted to his survival as Aimee. That beneath all the broken stuff, all the scars, he will be whole and happy.
I also hope that in the future I will have the opportunity to meet this gentleman and shake his hand. It’s funny how people can mean so much, though you’ve never seen them or shared a conversation.
Caroline: What a nice story. Do you do your research before you begin a new project, or as you go along?
Claire: Both. I will do the core research for the basic plot, but research details (like hotels or locational landmarks) as I go along when I’m hit with the: “I need XYZ here. Let’s see what’s available.”
Caroline: Tell us about your writing schedule. Do you set goals? Do you write daily?
Claire: I write daily. Usually 2500 words or more a day. As I mentioned, I write with a GANTT – it is my project planner and a throwback from my project management days. Everything is linked with start dates, finish dates, and I do everything possible to make those dates for each project. Sometimes I have to adjust, sometimes we have to tear it apart and start over because a contract has demanded different deadlines than what I planned months before. But I write to the GANTT and I LOVE checking off the boxes and filling in percentages.
Sickening isn’t it?
Caroline: Whatever works for you is what you should do. Do you write full time or do you have a day job. If you have a day job, what is it?
Claire: I consider myself a full-time author. On the side I do some free-lance editing and some contractual web design work, but the hours I spend doing that don’t come close to the hours invested in my novels and my primary focus.
Caroline: What do you hope your writing brings to readers?
Caroline: What advice would you give to unpublished authors?
Claire: Writing is a job, even if you have another job paying the bills. If you treat it as such, and you make the time to write daily; if you commit yourself to your writing career, you will succeed. But if you allow yourself to fall into the trap of “I can do this later” or “I’m too tired”… you’ll rarely reach the goals you’ve set forth.
Caroline: Good advice. Sometimes easier to tell ourselves than convince our friends and relatives that since we’re home, we’re not free all day. Tell us about your latest release.
Claire: Two of my novels were released October 26th: A BROKEN CHRISTMAS, a contemporary novella about a soldier’s homecoming Christmas struggle, and CURSED TO KILL is the first of my new paranormal series, Inherited Damnation.
Blurb for A BROKEN CHRISTMAS:
The truest gifts are damaged ...
Fourteen months ago, Aimee Garland had the perfect marriage—until her husband blindsided her with a divorce. Now, he’s home and she intends to get her answers. Yet the crippled man she confronts bears scars her years of nursing cannot heal and the secret he’s hiding is tearing him apart.
Delta Force operative Kyle Garland divorced his wife to protect her. His top-secret missions expose him to constant danger, but the threat to Aimee doesn’t come in the form of insurgents or bombs. Rather, his soul-deep love and dreams he silently nurtures are her greatest hazard. When a career-ending injury brings him home for Christmas, he must bury his feelings and hide the monster he’s become.
As she forces him to confront his demons, will the holiday shred the fragile bonds they share, or will the spirit of Christmas heal their broken hearts?
Caroline: Intriguing. What about an excerpt?
Claire: Here’s the excerpt:
“You need to go,” he murmured. “Away from me. I’m a monster, Aimee.”
The ache behind her ribs intensified, and Aimee leaned in close to press a soft kiss to his cheek. “No. I’m staying right here. Go back to sleep, it’s not yet five.”
As his gaze locked with hers, she read the anguish behind his eyes. His whisper sent chills rolling down her spine. “I don’t want to hurt you. I shouldn’t even be here, but I needed clothes, then I fell on the stairs. I couldn’t make it back to the couch. Thought I’d sleep a little here…” He trailed off with another disbelieving shake of his head.
The man sitting before Aimee resembled nothing of the man she had married or the solider she’d sent off to war. This one was on the verge of total meltdown, and the fact it was Kyle broke her heart. She slipped her hand into his, entwined their fingers. “Tell me about the dream?”
He lifted his gaze, his eyes pleading with her to understand. “I can’t.”
For the first time since she’d been issued the standard party line, she heard the truth. Not can’t. Wouldn’t. Kyle’s silence didn’t come from covert orders. The broken quality of his voice told her he didn’t want her to know.
Tonight wasn’t the time to push the issue of what happened in Afghanistan. Lifting his hand, she brought his knuckles to her lips, then tucked their joined palms into her lap. “Is this why you said you don’t sleep so well anymore?”
Kyle looked to the window and answered with a short nod.
“How long has this been going on?”
Blurb for CURSED TO KILL:
One of eight children born to an ancient Celtic priestess and sired by a demonic incubus, Cian McLaine suffers from a centuries old curse. Though his immortality allows him to enjoy the pleasures of mortal life, he is plagued by the desire to kill. As long as he doesn't fall in love he can keep the compulsion at bay.
When Cian walked into her rare bookstore months ago, Miranda Phillips never imagined she'd lose her heart to the handsome playboy. Her reward for doing so was abandonment. Cian left as mysteriously as he appeared, in the middle of the night with no explanation, no goodbye. Now he's back, and passion flares just as hot.
But Cian has secrets. If Miranda is to survive, she must uncover the truth and free his darkened soul.
To Learn More about the Inherited Damnation series, READ HERE
Caroline: Where can readers find your books?
Claire: As I write for three publishing houses, it’s easier to point everyone to Amazon You can search under Claire Ashgrove or Tori St. Claire
Caroline: Anything else you’d like readers to know?
Claire: I’d really just like to thank everyone for staying behind me and supporting the works I’ve published. Your enthusiasm feeds me and makes me work even harder.
Caroline: How can readers learn more about you?
Claire: My websites are www.claireashgrove.com and www.toristclaire.com I also have blogs established as both pen names too: The Muse and Dangerously Naughty
Thank you, Caroline, for having me here today. It’s been fun!
Caroline: Thanks for sharing with us, Claire. Continued success with your career.
In the meantime, thanks for stopping by!